How Do Solar Panels Work?

Curious About Solar Panels? Learn How They Work!

Last updated on August 23, 2019, by Dan Martin | Written by Dan Martin

How solar panels are built and what materials

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Recently there has been an increasing buzz about solar panels as more and more individuals and companies decide to adopt solar panels as their primary source of energy. Check out our other blog about Top Companies Going Solar. Google Search Trends show an impressive increase of solar panel interest in the last five years. Between Apple installing them on their new headquarters and recent news of Walmart suing Tesla over potential negligent installation, the news has a new solar story every day! 

But what are solar panels and how do they work?

Solar electrons and how they work

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is a solar panel?

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic cells, are tools used to capture heat from the sun and convert it into electricity.

Ok that seems pretty simple, but how does it work?

The simple explanation is that the panels are made up of smaller components called cells. These cells are made of silicon, and placed in rows on the panels. These cells are semiconductors that collect and convert solar energy (sunlight) into electricity.

The absorption of this solar energy knocks electrons out of place, allowing them to flow freely in a current. This current is directed to metal inside the panels, which can then be directed out of the panel and into another appliance.

How solar panels work infographic


This current is now electrical energy flowing in a Direct Current or DC. In your house you use AC or Alternating Current, so the DC energy needs to change to AC energy for you to be able to use it in your house mixed my bitcoin. To convert DC to AC you’ll use an inverter. The inverter will change the energy, and then you can use it to power your home!

In conclusion: silicon cells absorb sun light, which is channeled and converted into usable AC energy through an inverter, then sent to your appliances or to a storage device like a battery for later use.

If you want to see a more indepth explanation check out this pdf from how stuff works! This is one of the documents we recommend to those new to solar!

If you want to figure out how many solar panels you need, check out our solar panel calculator.

About The Author

Dan Martin

Dan is an International Marketing and Sales Manager. A linguist turned marketer, he has a degree in Spanish and Linguistics with a minor in Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese. He is currently working with SanTan Solar developing markets in Canada and Mexico. He has written technical papers and academic reports on second language learners in various environments and explored the linguistics behind “internet words”. Currently he is a solar panel consultant simplifying the complex world of buying and installing solar panels by writing easy to read but in-depth articles on anything and everything that touches the solar panel industry.

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